With the addition of Al Horford, the Boston Celtics have officially arrived as contenders in the Eastern Conference. Are they still a few miles behind Cleveland? Sure, but I've still got them pegged as the second best team in the East. Don't take my word for it, Vegas has them there too.

A long season awaits, and whether they are as good as projected remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure, the Celtics are at least a step or two away from those upper echelon teams. There may only be one of them in the East, the Cavaliers, but there's a few of them out West. The Warriors, Spurs, and a healthy Clippers squad are all part of that group. There's even a couple of other teams in the West that will probably end up with a lower regular-season win total than the Celtics, but I'm not ready to put Boston ahead of them.

Danny Ainge isn't about to fast-forward to the Eastern Conference Finals. Via Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, the Celtics' President of Basketball Operations isn't ready to be coronated the second seed just yet:

“I don’t just automatically think we’re the second-best team in the East just because some people think we are. We’ve got to earn that, and that’s not going to be easy. So we have a lot of work to do, and we have to overcome a lot of things and play our best to get to that point.”

Pressed about what this team still needs, Ainge is well aware of the holes that have to be filled:

“Sure, it’d be great to add a knock-down shooter, but you don’t want to change the identity of your team by sticking someone out there that doesn’t have that same defensive intensity and toughness that is the foundation of us being a good team,” he said. “It’s just not as simple as finding a second baseman and putting him in there. In basketball, you have to do a lot of things -- pass, dribble, shoot, rebound, defend. That’s why we like Jaylen (Brown), as an example. He does a lot of things. It’s like Marcus (Smart) isn’t your prototypical NBA point guard, but he can play (the) 1-4. He’s in there playing a power forward in a playoff game and doing well. He’s a basketball player, and you can play him with a lot of different combinations of people. That’s what I like about our team.

“But, yeah, it would be nice to add a rim protector that didn’t hurt our offense. It would be nice to have a shooter that didn’t hurt our defense. But I feel like we have a lot of guys that are good shooters. But the kind of guys you’re talking about, those guys are hard to find.”

Hearing Danny speak about team chemistry being more important than adding players just because they do certain things well takes me back to the 2016 Draft. Rumors were swirling, but no deals were to be had.

The universal response from Celtics' brass when asked about why certain trades didn't come to fruition was basically that other teams were trying to rob us. They were all asking for too much. I think that speaks volumes for how the Celtics' front office views the players on this roster, and how much more those guys can improve.

In the meantime, Ainge will be busy trying to find ways to improve our team on his end, but I'm excited to see another year of growth from our young guys. And who knows, maybe some of those holes will be filled from within.

Photo Credit: Boston Herald

Follow Mark on Twitter: @MarkAL401

Mark Allison 9/21/2016 02:48:00 PM Edit
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